Yesterday, it got the better of me. It wore me down time after time. it leaves me asking, “How can we change the culture where students thinking showing up is good enough?”
As students showed up late, they told me, “At least, I’m here.” As students decided not to get their work done, “At least, I’m here.” That was the extent of their expectation of themselves.
I have a problem with that.
We have a culture in school, and I don’t think it is just this one, where we’ve celebrated the showing up enough for students to think that is all we expect of them. But worst of all, they begin having only those expectations of themselves. They begin, or in some cases continue, a race to the bottom.
Maybe that’s what it is all about? We need to understand the education revolution better to recognize that showing up matters little; That getting an education does not have to be at a central building, at a pre-determined time.
Maybe we frame learning so that the least they can do is get their high school diploma?
Maybe the least they can do is learn something they are passionate about?
Do I really care if they are in the room, if they are learning? Maybe the ubiquity of learning opportunities throughout their lives is our lowest expectations?
Maybe this is a call to look at the nature of attendance?
I have higher expectations of my students, so how do we change a culture that seemingly just wants them to show up?
I believe that classroom culture is of the utmost importance. It defines the learning. Some people would argue that classroom culture is determined within the first week. Some say, “you must set it early.” I tend to disagree.
Classroom culture in my estimation is constantly in flux. Events that happen within the context continually change culture. I think surprise is one of the most powerful tools of classroom culture.
Although routine is important to a student’s ability to deal with the ‘learning’ work, the unease of not knowing what will happen raises awareness and I believe engagement.
This speaks to the idea that lessons should not be planned weeks in advance. Not for the reason that you might not get through the material, but because surprise is as powerful for the teacher as it is for the student. Surprise lets teachers be in the moment.
Sometimes the surprise comes when a student who thinks he’s going to be in trouble finds the teacher laughing alongside him.
Sometimes the surprise comes when the expectation is altered mid-stream.
Sometimes the surprise is nothing but a change in the routine.
I think by allowing for surprise, using surprise, and maintaining the will to be surprised, classroom culture will be rich, trusting and effective for learning.
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